Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Todd County, Kentucky

The Presbyterian Church was hardly second in its appearance in Kentucky. In 1796 James Mc-Gready, a Presbyterian minister, settled in Logan County and took charge of three congregations-Little Muddy, Gaspar River and Red River, the latter being situated near the line separating Kentucky and Tennessee. Mr. McGready- was a native of Pennsylvania, but commenced his ministry in North Carolina, where he inveighed with great earnestness against slavery and formalism. On this account he became offensive to the church and immigrated to Kentucky, where his severity and earnestness had a different effect, and gave the initial impulse to what became the great revival of 1800. Soon after his arrival in Kentucky several other ministers of this denomination came hither, among whom were William Hodge, William McGee and Samuel McAdoo, who entered heartly into the spirit of McGready’s work. There was decided opposition to their work from members of the church, which needed but a plausible pretext to grow into a formidable schism. The demand for ministers for the work of the church was far in excess of the means of the church to supply ac-cording to their methods, and these earnest men advised certain congregations to select some pious and promising young men and encourage them to enter the work which so urgently called them. They were not expected to undergo the usual educational preparation, and in a short time three young men were advanced to the ministry. This summary action brought out a vigorous but ineffectual protest, and when these young men were allowed to preach after refusing to accept certain dogmas of the old church, the opposition became irreconcilable. The difficulties were protracted through several years; the progressive party considered them-selves wronged, and when it became apparent that no redress could be had in the old church they determined to reconstitute the Cumberland Presbytery, which had been previously constituted and dissolved by the Synod of Kentucky. The ministers who took the responsibility of thus defying the Synod were Samuel McAdoo, Finis Ewing and Samuel King. The Cumberland Presbytery was reconstituted February 4, 1810, and became the head and front of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The character of church government and legal worship of the mother church was such as no intelligent man could much longer tolerate, and hundreds repelled by this and attracted by the position taken by the earnest leaders of the revolt, joined the standard of the new organization. The system of camp-meetings was instituted by this church, and the first one held in Christendom was at Gaspar River Meeting-house in Kentucky.

Finis Ewing was an early settler in Todd County, and did much to give this church the ascendancy here. A large number of the settlers were Seceders, and went into this organization. Camp-meetings were regularly held at a point two miles south of Trenton, where afterward the Lebanon Church was erected, which was instrumental in bringing large numbers into the church. A brick edifice was early erected here, and a seminary established which occupied this building. Ewing, King, Cassitt and others, leaders of the church, were among the early ministers of this denomination in the county. Some idea .of primitive views may be gained from some of their church customs as related by Mr. Kennedy, so often quoted in these pages. In relation to administering the Lord’s supper, he says: ” First, the minister would announce the times for his sacramental meetings, and Saturday, previous to the communion on the Sabbath, they met as a day of preparation and prayer. I remember well my father’s old buckskin purse of tokens, which. I would then have thought sacrilegious to have touched with the tip of my finger. Every one that desired to commune must apply to the Elders for one of those tokens, simply made of bullets hammered flat to the size of a silver dime. If the bench of Elders believed him worthy, they would give the applicant a token, which would be pocketed cheerfully until they went to the table, which was erected clear across the church. Then they all took seats, and while the institution hymn was chanted, the Elders passed one on each side of the table and took up the tokens. If one happened to be present with-out this mark of his fitness, he was obliged to retire.” Such formalities could not last long in a progressive organization, and, in fact, in the mother church, and were done away with many years ago. Ewing remained here some fifteen or twenty years. Toward the end of his stay here he was greatly annoyed to find the Baptist Church making rapid progress, and the culture of tobacco gaining popularity, both of which were distasteful to him. In 1821 he emigrated to Missouri, accompanied by many of his followers. This broke up the church here, and he left the edifice by will or recommendation to the Baptists, who had occupied the land. In the meanwhile Rev. F. R. Cassitt had organized a church at Elkton; William John had organized another at Salubria Springs; James Barnett at Mount Hermon, and one at ” Black Jack” by M. H. Bone and others. To these various churches the few members who remained were now transferred. Mr. Ewing died in 1842; he was one of the young men advanced to the ministry, and is considered one of the most important of the originators, if not the father of the church. Rev. F. R. Cassitt was prominent in the early history of the church as head of the school in this county, and subsequently the first President of the Cumberland College at Princeton, Ky. He was one of the originators of the Religious and Literary Intelligencer, and subsequently was for a number of years editor and publisher of the Banner of Peace, both papers devoted to the. interests of this denomination.


Battle, J. H., W. H. Perrin, Counties of Todd and Christian, Kentucky : historical and biographical, Chicago : F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1884.

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